Top 10 ways David Letterman will end his historic late-night run

20 May 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Top 10 list of highlight moments from David Letterman’s career.

This is it. David Letterman has been a fixture of American television for 33 years, beginning his career on Late Night with David Letterman on NBC in 1982. (He moved to CBS and Late Show in 1993.) He’s been hosting late night shows for several decades and more than 6,000 episodes—which may be why it’s easy to forget how innovative the comedian was when he was just starting out.All things change, and everything ends, and after Wednesday we will no longer be living in a world in which David Letterman is on television five nights a week.Along the way, he popularized the Top 10 list. (My personal favorite was “Top 10 Least-known Norman Rockwell Paintings,” which included “The Old Hobo’s Infected Foot” and “Bad Clams.”) So it seems appropriate to pick 10 moments from Letterman’s shows that stand out.

Having made it three years longer than his idol, Johnny Carson, Letterman isn’t quite going out on top, having long ago been surpassed in cultural cachet by the lesser Jimmys who thrive on viral videos and inferior comedians masking as political gurus such as Jon Stewart or John Oliver. Whenever a television show with a few seasons under its belt goes off the air, there are always those who proclaim it “the end of an era,” even if it really isn’t. Wizard), and you’ll see out-of-the-box segments and improvised moments that helped kick-off what would be his longtime network run—as well as his reputation for trail-blazing. But Letterman is going out with a bang, having a tremendous run of shows over the past two weeks that have included some of his favorite guests (Howard Stern, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Norm Macdonald) and musical acts (Eddie Vedder’s Better Man was spine-tingling.) 10.

Try to imagine Jimmy Fallon doing “The Tonight Show” at 68, and you will fail. (Jimmy Kimmel I can see hanging on, maybe.) Although the shadow of his leaving has stretched across the year, over the last few weeks things have become positively valedictory as guests arrive for what most can’t help but mentioning will be their last visit to “Letterman.” Tears have been demurely shed. Here are a few standout (colorful, bizarre, and just plain fun) moments from the debut of Late Night, in honor of Letterman’s last late night show: the finale of Late Show, airing May 20 on CBS. Bill Murray comes out in costume, reminisces over the old days with Dave, sits on his desk to sing him a jokey farewell song and then kisses Dave on the forehead, while Letterman looks as uncomfortable as he did when Norm told him he loved him. 9. Most of the lists I’ve seen have the old standbys – Drew Barrymore’s table dance, Joaquin Phoenix’s profound weirdness, Cher and Madonna going potty-mouthed. In a month-long receiving line, respect is being paid —by the president and the first lady, by Howard Stern and Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts, Steve Martin and Martin Short.

Near the end of the show, Bob Dylan comes out for just his fourth appearance on a Letterman show, just his second on the CBS version and his first in more more than 20 years. He passes the torch and the time slot to comedian Stephen Colbert, formerly of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” but while no disrespect is intended to the very funny and intelligent successor, it just won’t be the same. Even if Fallon, Conan or Kimmel is more your cup of tea, whatever quality still exists in the old paradigm of the late-night broadcast talk show is because Letterman set the bar very high.

Like something out of Unsolved Mysteries, or what the Disney employee says before pulling the lever on the Tower of Terror, the opening monologue is a little creepy. “Good evening. Unless Letterman has a favorite song of which I’m unaware, here are five possibilities of what Bob will play: If he plays The Times They Are A-Changin’, it’d be a hokey disappointment, which is why I think Bob (and Letterman) avoid it.

While Johnny Carson remains the best-ever as talk-show host, Letterman is a close second, maybe because he was so much like Carson in his quick wit, self-effacing humor and intelligence. Some lesser finales tonight: “The Mysteries of Laura” wraps up its first season on NBC at 8 p.m., the 30th season of “Survivor” ends with a two-hour show on CBS at 8, the 16th season of “Law & Order: SVU” hangs it up at 9 on NBC, the sixth season of “Modern Family” ends at 9 p.m. on ABC, the 10th season of “Supernatural” wraps at 9 on the CW, the first season of “Black-ish” ends on ABC at 9:30 p.m. and the second season of “Chicago PD” winds up at 10 on NBC. Most of today’s late night talk show hosts acknowledge him as a primary influence, to the extent that “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which competes directly with Letterman’s time slot, is airing a repeat Wednesday night. My Verizon FIOS guide describes Dave’s last episode with all the clarity of a “next week on Mad Men” segment: “The final episode includes surprises, memorable highlights and the last Top Ten List.” Thanks, doctor. 7. In 2006, Richards, who played Kramer on “Seinfeld,” got into a verbal altercation with the audience at a comedy club, using the N-word during a bizarre rant.

At his 2007 peak, Forbes reported that he was being paid $40 million a year, and both he and his film and television production company, Worldwide Pants, have been behind some major successes. The fact that Bill Murray, Letterman’s first-ever guest, will appear on Tuesday suggests Wednesday won’t be a traditional episode, which is a disappointment given that Dave doesn’t exactly dabble in schlock. No one expects Bette Middler to serenade him, like she did to Letterman’s hero, Johnny Carson, on his final episode, or that Dave will weep when introducing all the children born to staffers during his tenure, a move Jay Leno pulled on his first retirement show.

So if any of you don’t feel like you care to subject your nerves to the strain, now’s your chance to…well, we’ve warned you.” Letterman guides the camera backstage, from the green room (which doubles as a greenhouse) to the lively control room where a massive Oktoberfest party is well under way. His habit of greeting female guests with remarks about their clothes, hair, legs or smell, with hugs or hand-kissing, make a cool uncle momentarily a creepy one. (It’s the thing that makes him seem most out of time and out of touch.) But then he changes back again.

The actor brings out a crew member for his own rendition of Olivia Newton-John’s “Let’s Get Physical,” complete with jumping jacks and full body convulsions. Foo Fighters will come out and play Everlong or Dave will opt for Bruce Springsteen, who finished his NBC show with Glory Days but doesn’t really have any song he could play on Wednesday that will be as emotional.

Letterman takes to the streets for a few interviews with a restaurant worker who pledges to correct a misspelling and a police officer who works in the world’s tiniest “police station.” Letterman in the wild is an unexpected treat. The host will give a heartfelt monologue to end the show, one which will include thank yous, apologies, references to Johnny Carson, him taking off his glasses to wipe away building tears, a few applause breaks, at least one trademark Letterman cackle and then a sincere thank you and goodnight, as the camera fades to black, ending a 33-year run of television perfection. And what a coincidence that Newton, whom I had seen play all season, was there two days after winning the Heisman Trophy. (Other guests: Ricky Gervais, Diddy Dirty Money and Hailee Steinfeld, who was the little girl in the “True Grit” remake.) The director of the Columbus zoo was on the show 100-plus times, bringing some amazing animals and having all sorts of mishaps. (On his last appearance, Hanna was moved to tears after a highlight video.) Give me snow leopards and baby tigers any time. Jay Thomas, a character actor and comedian, threw a football at a pizza, stack of meatballs and an Empire State Building replica atop a Christmas tree.

For more on Letterman’s departure, check out what Ben Schwartz, Jay Pharoah and more had to say in this retrospective look at the host’s career, as well as Conan O’Brien’s tribute, available here. But the real highlight was his retelling of what Letterman called – and I agree – “the greatest talk show of all time.” It involved Thomas, weed, an ancient Volvo, a traffic accident and the Lone Ranger. Little-known actor Calvert DeForest often showed up (including on Letterman’s first show) as a largely clueless fellow with big glasses who would shout a few lines unconvincingly. Johnny Carson’s last appearance on Letterman’s show is a highlight, when Carson comes onto the set, sits behind Letterman’s desk and applause rains down on him.

The other Christmas tradition, on the same show as Jay Thomas appearances, was Darlene Love singing “Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home),” an old Phil Spector song from the 1960s. When he returned to his desk, Letterman offered a moving tribute to Carson, saying of late-night hosts, “We’re all kind of secretly doing Johnny’s ‘Tonight Show.’ ” He then explained that all of the jokes in the monologue were written by Carson, who had sent them to Letterman over the previous few months. In 2004, a Zevon tribute album with artists including Bruce Springsteen was released — and titled “Enjoy Every Sandwich: The Songs of Warren Zevon.” He called Letterman the best friend his music ever had. He said he needed a couple of minutes to hear himself talk, and for nearly eight minutes he encapsulated the confusion, anger and heartbreak of a nation.

It was raw and genuine in a way that TV almost never is. “We’re told they were zealots fueled by religious fervor — religious fervor,” he said of the attackers. “And if you live to be 1,000 years old, will that make any sense to you?

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